Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘pragmatism sucks

Some Sunday Links

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* David Simon: “The Attorney-General’s kind remarks are noted and appreciated. I’ve spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition.” (also via)

20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know.

* The Monochromatic City of Chefchaoen, Morocco. Via Cynical-C.

* Naked Capitalism takes a stand against selling out.

The “you need to have a seat at the table” crowd misses how best to steer a path in complex systems. As John Kay points out in his new book Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly, one does better by sticking with principles, since it is beyond our capabilities to map a straight path. He compares the performance of companies within a number of different industries who set out to maximize profits against those that set higher and more complex objectives. The ones that had the richer, more aspirational aims did better in financial terms. Apple is a classic example.

* The New York Times reviews China Miéville’s Embassytown. This is already on my Kindle, and next up after I finish Kraken.

* And John Seaver explains the coming DC reboot.

What with all that, even the best creative teams eventually pile up a gradual accumulation of mistakes. Things that seemed like a good idea at the time now seem like the thing that cost you about twenty percent of your reading audience, and not all of the changes are as easy to reverse as a costume change. You can do stories that undo other stories to a limited extent, but eventually audiences get sick of contrived deals with the devil and hokey memory erasures and you wind up stuck in a corner, telling stories about a teenage version of your old character who’s from a parallel universe created when a time-traveling supervillain set a trap for his enemies using pocket-dimensional copies of a superhero who’s no longer in continuity thanks to…

You can start to see why the idea of sweeping it all under the rug and starting over from the point when your characters still made sense sounds like a good idea, right? Reboots cut away, at least in theory, all of the detritus that piled up over the years, all the Spider-Mobiles and deaths of Doctor Octopus and Grim Hunters and teen Iron Men and missing hands and Jewel Kryptonites, and leave the character iconic and sensible again. To a desperate and semi-sober editor, it’s got to start looking like a pretty attractive idea. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s not like the amazing adventures of the one-handed, dead, wifeless, childless, kingdomless Aquaman is going to sell anyway.

Health Care Reform Part 1,000,000

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Nate Silver wants to convince you that in spite of everything the health care bill really is a good idea.

A slightly longer version of the elevator pitch. So, we’ve talked a lot about what the bill is not. It’s not structural reform. What is it, then? At the end of the day, it’s a big bleeping social welfare program — the largest social welfare program to be implemented since the Great Society. And that’s really what it’s been all along: fundamental reform like single-payer or Wyden-Bennett was never really on the table. The bill comes very close, indeed, to establishing what might be thought of as a right to access to health care: once it’s been determined that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health care coverage, and that working class people ought to receive assistance so that they can afford health care coverage, it will be very hard to remove those benefits. It’s the sort of opportunity that comes around rarely — and one that liberals will greatly regret if they turn down.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Health Care Watch (Vermont Is Angry and So Am I)

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Potentially seismic news tonight as Bernie Sanders (backing me up on reconciliation) now says he currently can’t support the health care bill. This comes amidst his fellow Vermonter, Howard Dean, continuing to argue that the bill in its current form is worse than nothing and Joe Lieberman, history’s most absurd villain, actually threatening to join the GOP.

Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, Scott Lemieux, Think Progress, and Nate Silver all say Dean is wrong, and on the policy merits he probably is—I don’t think the bill is actually worse than nothing and if I were in the Senate I’d have to swallow my rage and vote for it. But politically I just don’t know; continuing to be “responsible” and “realistic” when even our allies habitually betray us is starting to look like a mug’s game. (I think the official term for the progressive caucus is “useful idiots.”) Why shouldn’t Obama and Reid have to beg for Bernie’s support? Why should only centrist tantrums count?

Robert Gibbs says Howard Dean is being irrational, and Jane is absolutely right: he didn’t say anything like that about Holy Joe, even when it was actually true. Why not? Russ Feingold says it’s because the Liebermanized bill is what the White House has really wanted all along. If that’s so, they’re the only ones; without a public option support for health care tanks, with good reason to think (as Kos does) that the individual mandate (however necessary) will prove politically toxic without a public option on the table.

Chris Bowers says there are no more happy endings. Probably not.

On Washing One’s Hands of the Democrats

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I’m seeing a marked uptick in lefty griping in my feeds, often with some variation on the phrase “washing my hands of the Democratic Party.” I’d say this sort of proclamation was unfair, but I guess its time has come; Obama has been president, after all, for two whole months and yet puppies still die.

Confidential to my fellow travelers: What I wrote about pragmatism during the primaries (1, 2) still holds. I don’t like the way the financial crisis is being handled either, but unless you foresee wholesale Constitutional reforms before 2012 you’re going to have either a Democratic or Republican president. You have to pick one, and there’s only one who will ever even listen to people like us. The happy feeling you get from not voting for a Democrat is worth exactly nothing.

Elections have consequences. To take just one example that passed across my newsreader yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency has now blocked mountaintop-removal coal-mining. That happened because the far-too-centrist, corporatist, hopelessly compromised Democratic Party is now in power. And not just in power, but more unabashedly progressive than it’s been for forty years. Drag the country to the left with one hand, hold your nose with the other, but we’re stuck with the Democrats if we ever want to get anything accomplished. You don’t have to like it—but if you want to be a politically relevant actor in America you have to come to terms with it.

I would have thought the example of the last eight years would have proved this point well enough. Have our memories gotten so short?

DOMA

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Glenn Greenwald says Obama and the new Democratic Congress should repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I’m actually a little more optimistic on this front than other people I know, but that’s not to say I’m optimistic. I think Obama is a remarkable politician and certain to be a better president than any we’ve seen, but in the end he remains a politician and the cost/benefit analysis still cuts against us*. Those of us who believe in marriage equality—and more importantly those people whose basic happiness and quality of life depend on it—are likely to spend some time under the bus, “waiting for the second term,” especially after this week’s tragic spectacle of California of all places rejecting equality.

I have significantly more faith in the courts doing the right thing on marriage—sadly creating a Roe v. Wade for the 21st century in the process—than the national Democrats taking a stand for basic civil rights. Prove me wrong, guys.


* precisely because the national Democrats refuse to show leadership on GLBT issues

Written by gerrycanavan

November 8, 2008 at 2:23 pm